Garda Commissioner set to face PAC questions on new Templemore revelations later today

Garda Commissioner set to face PAC questions on new Templemore revelations later today

Garda Commissioner Noirín O Sullivan is set to be grilled today on fresh revelations tens of thousands of euro in EU grants to the crisis-hit garda college have been misspent for two decades, writes Fiachra O Cionnaith, Political Correspondent.

The under-fire commissioner will be questioned on the controversy at a day-long meeting of the cross-party Dáil Public Accounts Committee amid ongoing calls for senior managers to be fired over what happened and as an EU body became the latest group to open an investigation into the scandal at the weekend.

In her latest appearance before the committee this morning, which will be followed by separate meetings with the Department of Justice and Policing Authority this evening, Ms O'Sullivan is expected to launch a staunch defence of her handling of the widescale garda college financial scandal.

However, her evidence is likely to be further undermined by a draft report into EU grant spending concerns at Templemore drawn up by the gardai's civilian head of internal audit, whistleblower Niall Kelly.

At a recent meeting of the PAC last month, Mr Kelly revealed the existence of the audit which began as a follow-up to the initial garda college investigation published in March.

However, while he said it was unlikely to be published until July, in a letter to PAC and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming last night Mr Kelly confirmed he provided a final draft version to Ms O'Sullivan yesterday.

The surprise announcement, which came on the eve of Ms O'Sullivan's crunch meeting with the PAC and means she can now be questioned on its findings, emerged after an EU body confirmed at the weekend it has opened yet another investigation into the specific EU grants use issue.

"I wish to inform you that I have this morning forwarded a draft report on the EU-funded programmes/projects to the garda commissioner," Mr Kelly wrote.

"This report is a follow-on report from my earlier report entitled Interim Audit Report on Financial Procedures at the Garda College that is currently being examined by the PAC.

"It is one of the two additional reports that I committed to completing by mid-July."

In the letter, Mr Kelly said the report is "still in draft as it is the subject of consultation" and that it would remain in this position until the garda audit committee's next meeting on June 27.

However, in a notable reference to the seriousness of the conclusions the report includes, Mr Kelly added in his letter to Mr Fleming that:

"I should also inform you that I have forwarded the draft report to the deputy commissioner of policing and security.

"[This is on foot of] having taken legal advice from [civilian] head of legal affairs Ken Ruane and considering my obligations as an auditor to report any suspicion of fraudulent activity that may have occurred."

While Mr Kelly's letter - which confirmed a final draft version of the EU grant audit is now complete and with Ms O'Sullivan - did not outline the investigation's conclusions, at a previous PAC meeting the auditor was clear in his concerns.

He specifically raised fears large quantities of EU funding may have been re-routed from legitimate garda college activities to different parts of the force.

He was also asked during the meeting if the money could be linked to a privately held bank account in the name of a former senior garda officer, a question he did not reject.

The focus of the audit is understood to be on the EU Cepol funding system, which the garda college was officially receiving supports from since 1998.

It has been alleged that roughly 5% of this two-decades long funding pool was wrongly re-routed - a figure that reaches into the tens of thousands of euro.

The issue is now the subject of a fresh investigation by the EU, which confirmed at the weekend is examining the situation.

This means it, the garda inspectorate, the PAC and other bodies are now all inquiring into the garda college's finances.

Mr Kelly's EU funding audit is expected to dominate a large portion of the PAC's day-long meeting with garda commissioner Ms O'Sullivan, the Department of Justice and the Policing Authority this evening.

The meeting will also see Ms O'Sullivan - who is facing repeated opposition party calls to be fired despite ongoing official support from Government - questioned on other revelations from recent PAC meetings held with senior garda and civilian officers deliberately held in her absence.

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